From the Blog

Why Think Differently About Grading?

by Kate Gardoqui, Michelle Milstein, and Don Weafer 

don michelle and kate3

At the Great Schools Partnership, we frequently hear from educators and community members who have questions about grading and reporting. Some contact us because they are hoping to make changes in their systems; others contact us because they are seeking to understand changes that have been made in their school.  

To answer these questions, we have to remember one important truth: When we talk about grading, we are really talking about culture—the mindsets, among both teachers and students, about learning. Grading and reporting systems transmit learning cultures within schools, whether intentionally or unintentionally, shaping every student’s experience for better or worse.

You will find some frequently asked questions below, along with our answers and further reading or resources to help you rethink grading and reporting. You should also check out our comprehensive Guide to Grading & Reporting for Educational Equity, which highlights the central practices and policies of real schools working to ensure their grading and reporting systems are fair and equitable, and help students learn and grow.

When teachers agree on the standards and organize grades in clear, precise categories, the grades become more informative and teachers can better challenge and support students.

Helpful resources:
Organize Grade Books Consistently
Report on Habits of Work Separately

There are central practices that schools can use to ensure their grading and reporting systems help them build a nurturing, equitable, creative, and dynamic culture of learning. If these practices are missing, systems that seem to work fine for some might not be working at all for others.

Helpful resource: 

Grading and Reporting for Educational Equity: How Schools Create a Learning Culture

Examining the practices of schools that have worked on their grading systems to make them more equitable can be a great way to start the conversation.

Helpful resource: 
Grading & Reporting for Educational Equity (click the tabs reading “See What This Looks Like In Action”)

For schools that are considering grading changes in order to achieve greater consistency, a good first step is to examine current grading practices, beliefs, and guidelines, then come to school-wide agreements.

Helpful resources: 
Grading Audit Resource
Common Rubrics/Scoring Guides
Design Clear Grading and Reporting Guidelines
Organize Grade Books Consistently

Grade books should be visible to parents and students, should be organized to show a student’s mastery of important skills and content, and should be organized in consistent ways by all teachers in the school.

Helpful resource: 
Organize Grade Books Consistently

Many schools have designed ways to explicitly teach and evaluate habits of work separately, while still communicating to students that work habits are as important as academic skills.

Helpful resource: 
Report on Habits of Work Separately

Schools can redesign their grading systems to become more accurate and fair while keeping components of the reporting system consistent for the community. 

Helpful resources:
Report Grades Clearly and Consistently
Establishing Course or Standards Grades